This short story was written in response to a prompt, “ You find an alien object in your garden” for #StoryAWeek on the WriMo India group.
They were looking for her. She could hear their voices, calling out to her.
“Come out, Sania!”
“No one’s going to hurt you, I promise.”
That was her father.
The same old promise, thought Sania, with a sneer.
They always said that. No one will hurt you, and yet they did. Time after time.
She didn’t blame them. She was different. She knew it, and so did they. It was like raising a wolf cub among a flock of sheep. The sheep were kind and tried to love the wolf cub, but, they couldn’t really ignore its sharp teeth. They knew that given a chance, those huge canines could shred them to bits. They knew that the wolf was trying to curb its natural predatory tendencies out of respect for the ones who raised it. But, what if, one unfortunate day, that tightly leashed hunger slipped the leash?
And, it would. Of course, it would. Nature didn’t raise no dummies. One day, Wolfie would look at its sheep siblings, and instead of seeing the love in those dumb eyes, it would see fear and weakness. Instead of seeing its brothers, it would see prey, and that day, it would pounce. Survival of the fittest and all that.
Sania knew she was a wolf living with a family of sheep.
If she didn’t know better, she’d have thought she was exchanged at birth. But, there was no escaping the Shetty nose. Her father had it, her uncles all had it, and unfortunately, so did Sania. No amount of oil massage could make that bulbous appendage any smaller.
Now, hidden in the tiny bathroom of the outhouse, Sania examined said nose, in the weak light of the dying bulb, and shuddered. Then, she smiled, a twisted smile, full of a secret knowledge. That nose would not protect the sheep when Wolfie got the munchies. She turned to the door and listened. Footsteps approached the outhouse and Sania tensed. She wasn’t ready. He had told her to wait for the signal.
“We need some more time, my pumpkin,” he’d whispered in her ear.
“A few more days, and then, nothing can keep us apart. I’ll take you away from all of this. We’ll be happy,” he’d promised.
“Fine, but, before you take me away, I’m going to destroy all of them,” she warned.
“You shall have your revenge. They will pay for all those years of pain,” he’d vowed.
“How? They’re so strong and powerful. My Appa has a small army of thugs, and a wall full of weapons. Not to mention those monsters he lets loose on me ever so often,” she’d whimpered, scared at the thought of facing those monsters.
“Do they scare you, my love?”
“Only when they’re in front of me. When they’re not, they just make me angry. So angry, that I want to rip out their throats and bathe in their blood,” she’d wailed on a tortured whisper.
“Shhh! It’ll happen. Your wish is my command,” he’d teased.
That’s why she loved him so much. He was the only one who got her, and he’d do anything to keep her happy.
When he’d first approached her with the truth of her real identity, Sania had refused to believe him. She’d been so blind, content to live with the sheep. Slowly, when she started noticing the differences between her and her family, she’d turned to him for information. Secretly, away from prying eyes and long ears, he had taught her who she really was. He’d been assigned to keep her safe, and maybe it was a cliche to fall in love with one’s body guard, but, Sania didn’t care. Neither did he. And now, he was going to liberate her from these people who had snatched her from her true family, and stripped away her identity. She was going back to her real world, where she actually belonged. Not yet, though. She had to wait for his signal.
“Sania! Are you in there? We’re worried, my child. Where are you?”
“Appa, she won’t be in there. She’s afraid of the dark,” said her younger sister, the little lamb.
“Please! It’s not that she’s afraid of the dark. She’s just too princess-y to get her clothes dirty. She’s definitely not hiding in such a dingy place,” snarked her older brother, the dirty dirty sheep, who was going to die first, before she got to anyone else.
The footsteps slowly veered away. Sania made herself comfortable on the rug that she’d had the fore-sight to bring, and waited.
Finally, she heard it, the call that she’d been waiting for.
“Sania, my love, we’re here!”
“Finally! I’m in the outhouse, hiding in the bathroom.”
“Okay, are you ready for this?”
“Yes! I’ve been waiting for this moment,” swore Sania.
“My army’s here, waiting to go on a rampage. Once we get you out of there, you and I will go slaughter us some sheep,” he said, with a cackle.
“What’re you waiting for? Get me out of here. Is the perimeter clear?”
“Yes. But, nothing is ever easy.”
“What do you mean?”
“We have no physical presence in your world, right now, not until you open the gates for us.”
“How do I do that?”
“Come out of the outhouse. There is a portal to hell, right behind it. You just have to open it.”
“Okay, on my way.”
Sania made her way out and looked around nervously. It was two am, and her family was fast asleep.
“I don’t see any door.”
“It won’t look like a door. Any object invested with the right incantation can be a portal into our world.”
“So, how do I identify it?”
“It’s made of metal, and when you see it, you’ll be compelled to touch it, because I’ve put an access charm with your name on it.”
Sania started searching frantically. To be so close, yet so far, was unbearable. There was a small shed behind the outhouse, used to store gardening tools. Her gaze kept going to the shed, like it was calling out to her. Slowly, she walked towards it. That feeling was getting stronger, and when she stood in the doorway, it reached a crescendo.
All of Sania’s attention was focused on the shiny object lying on the floor of the shed. She had never seen anything like it. It was almost glowing. Her fingers itched to touch it.
“Found it,” she whispered. She heard his indrawn breath.
“Pick it up,” he ordered.
Sania bent down and picked it up.
“Now, you open the door to your freedom. But, the portal keepers demand a price to let you in. Are you willing to pay it?”
“Of course,” she replied. “What’s the currency?”
The next morning
Dr. Vijay Dutt, a renowned psychiatrist, exclaimed in anger and slammed down the receiver.
“Baba! What happened?” His daughter, Dr. Bindiya Dutt, an upcoming psychiatrist herself, asked.
“That was Inspector Gawad. He wanted to talk about Sania Shetty,” he said, breathing heavily.
“Sania? Oh, the paranoid schizophrenic?”
“Yes. Do you remember her hallucinations, Bindiya?”
“Of course, Baba. She used to talk about some guy who told her that she was a princess from hell, and that he would rescue her. The last time she was here, she was shrieking that she was a wolf and that her family were lambs waiting to be slaughtered.”
“Yes, she had a lot of latent anger towards her family.”
“She hated her brother, didn’t she?”
“I’ve never seen that level of hate towards a family member,” replied Dr. Dutt.
“I don’t blame her, actually. Of all her family members, he was the least sympathetic to her condition. I’ve had so many arguments with him. The clod thought that she was making it all up for attention.”
“Well, he won’t be saying that anymore,” said Dr. Dutt, with a grim smile.
That smile spoke volumes. Bindiya wanted to clap her hands over her ears to keep out her father’s next words. Her throat went dry.
“Why do you say that, Baba?”
“Last night, Sania went berserk. She attacked her family with a scythe in the middle of the night. Her younger sister is the only survivor.”
“The older brother was the first to die. She cut his throat in his sleep and carved the word “sheep” on his forehead. After that she killed her parents. When the younger sister went to investigate the shrieks, she saw Sania, covered in blood, dancing around the room. I told them! I told them not to stop her medication,” Dr. Dutt yelled, unable to control his anger.
Bindiya swallowed the bile that rose up and cleared her throat.
“Why did they stop her treatment?”
“The family was filthy rich, but, uneducated. They wanted a quick fix, because they wanted to get Sania married off, so that she wouldn’t be their problem, anymore. They took her to some sadhu-Baba type, who told her that she was possessed by a demon and tortured her in the name of exorcism. I think that was what triggered off this bloodbath. All her latent anger exploded like a volcano.”
“Where is she now? Did they take her into custody? She has to be institutionalised, not thrown in jail.”
“Too late for that, Bindiya. When she saw her sister, she went up to her and gave her a tight hug. Then, she stepped back, and before the sister could stop her, she cut her own neck with the same scythe.”
By Kimaya Kolhe
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